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Start & Complete

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A big problem with supergroups is that the big artists' demanding outside schedules often result in songs that feel rushed and thrown together. For Start & Complete, the members of About Group embraced this aspect, deliberately limiting their time together to only a day in the studio and enforcing improvisation. Although much of the material was prewritten, the chief songwriter, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, kept the songs from the rest of the band until the morning of the recording session at Abbey Road. Being seasoned vets, This Heat’s Charles Hayward (drums), Spiritualized’s John Coxon (keyboards), and Derek Bailey sideman Pat Thomas (guitar, bass, synth) adapted quite well. In spite of the slapdash circumstances, Start & Complete sounds more like an Elliott Smith-inspired indie rock band doing ‘70s soft rock covers than an avant-garde improv session. If you ignore the wonky keyboard lines running down the backgrounds, songs like “Don’t Worry” and "With Each New Day" seem completely planned, with so much chemistry in the sudden chord changes that the group sounds well rehearsed. Meanwhile, the drones of “A Sinking Song” and “Rough & Smooth” drift effortlessly, blending Spiritualized’s cosmic vibe with Hot Chip’s wispy vocals. The 11-minute highlight “You’re No Good” combines a tight structure with loose spirit, starting out as an imitation Billy Preston-era Beatles tune and spreading out into a long jam. Ultimately, a full album based around relaxed, Rhodes-based ballads is probably too bland for thrill-seekers, but Start & Complete is the type of one-off that might be of considerable interest to fans.

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